Tigers Close Out Road Trip at Jacksonville State
Friday, January 6, 2012
Tigers Close Out Road Trip at Jacksonville State
Tennessee State University men's basketball travels to Jacksonville State on Saturday, Jan. 7 in hopes of snapping a two-game losing skid. The Tigers and Gamecocks are scheduled to partake in the finale of a double-header at Pete Matthews Coliseum in Jacksonville, Ala. Tip-off is slated for 4:30 p.m.

The Tigers (8-8, 0-2 OVC) have dropped seven consecutive Ohio Valley Conference road contests, dating back to last season. TSU's last road victory was a 67-64 decision at UT Martin on Jan. 8, 2011. TSU closes out the current three-game road trip on Saturday before returning to Nashville next week for two games.

On Thursday, the Tigers dropped a 92-86 decision to Tennessee Tech. TSU fought back from a 10 point deficit to take a six point lead in the second half. However, Zac Swansey drained three consecutive triples to put the Golden Eagles on top for the remainder of the game. TSU shot 52 percent (29-of-56) for the game, including 10-of-19 (52.6 percent) behind the arch.

Robert Covington and Patrick Miller notched 14 points each in the loss. Covington has reached double-figures in 15 consecutive games and is just 210 points shy of reaching TSU's top-20 list for all-time scoring. The junior from Bellwood, Ill., is in several top-5 categories in the OVC:  second in rebounding (7.8 rpg), third in blocked shots (1.3 bpg) and fourth in scoring (17.0 ppg).

Miller is TSU's only other double-figure scoring, notching 11.9 points per game. He is tied with senior Wil Peters with 55 assists and 25 steals.

Peters is just 34 minutes shy of reaching 3,000 career minutes played. The Nashville product has competed in 108 games for the Tigers and is 161 points away of reaching the 1,000 points club.

This season, the Tigers are tallying 69.6 points a game, while shooting 43 percent (382-of-886) from the field. Tennessee State ranks first in the OVC in rebound margin, boasting a +2.7 advantage. The Tigers are grabbing an average of 34.4 boards in 16 games.

Jacksonville State (5-12, 0-4 OVC) has lost four consecutive games, including a 63-55 loss to Morehead State on Thursday. The Gamecocks are averaging 61.9 points a game and shooting 39.9 percent (367-of-920) from the field. Sophomore Brian Williams leads JSU with 11.9 points per game. Stephen Hall is the top rebounder for the Gamecocks, grabbing 5.9 boards per game, while averaging 10.0 points.

TSU leads the all-time series, 10-7, over Jacksonville State. The Tigers are 4-2 during the past two seasons, but have not won in Jacksonville since beating the Gamecocks 80-70 on Feb. 9, 2009.

Fans can listen to Albert Dawson call Saturday's action alongside color analyst Mark Pittman on the Big Blue Network, 102.1 FM The Light in Nashville and 101.9 FM in Clarksville. Live stats and video of the game will be available online at TSUTigers.com.

Game Notes...

SCOUTING THE GAMECOCKS: Jacksonville State (5-12, 0-4 OVC) is in the midst of a season-long four game losing skid after a tough 63-55 loss to Morehead State on Thursday. The Gamecocks have not secured a win since defeating Arkansas-Pine Bluff, 78-55, on Dec. 28, 2011. JSU is averaging 61.9 points a contest, shooting 39.9 percent (367-of-920) from the field. Opponents are scoring an average of 64.5 ppg, shooting 42.5 percent (366-of-862) from the field. Jacksonville State is boasting 7.9 steals and 3.4 blocks a contest. Three players are in double figures. Brian Williams is leading the way with 11.9 ppg. Tarvin Gaines has 11.2 ppg with an average of 4.3 rebounds a contest. Stephen Hall is the top rebounder, grabbing 5.9 boards a contest. The Birmingham native is tallying 10.0 ppg in 15 contests this season. JSU Coach James Green  is just one victory away from reaching his 200th career victory. Green is 32-73 in four seasons with the Gamecocks.

IT'S MILLER TIME: Reigning OVC Freshman of the Year Patrick Miller is continuing his success into this season. The Chicago product is second on the team with 11.9 ppg and is tied for the team-lead in assists (55) and steals (25). He has reached double-digits in 12 out of the last 13 games.  He has multiple assists in nine straight games. Miller is averaging 13.2 ppg and 3.8 apg in the past five games.

NEW YEAR, NEW RESOLUTION: TSU has not posted a winning record in the month of January since the 2007-2008 campaign. However, that mark seems to be trending upward under third-year head coach John Cooper. And this year, the Tigers are hoping that is their New Year's resolution. The Tigers posted a 4-4 mark last season. The Tigers went 1-9 in 2009-10 and 3-6 during the 2008-09 season. The Tigers notched a 6-5 record in 2007-08 under then head coach Cy Alexander.

COVINGTON ON A ROLL: Junior forward Robert Covington has led Tennessee State in scoring in 12 of  16 games played this season.  With 17 points against UTM, Covington eclipsed the 1,000 points mark becoming the first TSU player since Gerald Robinson, Jr. in 2009 to reach that milestone. Covington managed his 15th consecutive  double-digit point performance with 14 points and nine boards at Tennessee Tech. He earned his 15th career double-double with 18 points and 10 rebounds against EKU. He has collected 12 20-plus point performances in his career.  The junior was named to the Continental Tire Las Vegas Invitational All-Tournament team earlier this season.  Covington garnered OVC Player of the Week honors on Nov. 21 after posting 19.0 points and 9.7 rebounds in three games. On the season, Covington ranks fourth in the OVC with 17.0 ppg, is second in rebounding (7.8 per game) and third in blocks (1.2 per game).  TSU is 7-3 this season when Covington scores 17 or more points.

PLAYING IT CLOSE: This season, TSU is 4-4 in single-digit , having lost two consecutive games within single margins. The 2010-11 season saw the Tigers play 18 of their 30 games, including three overtime games, in tight-nit fashion. TSU finished 9-9 in those games, 2-1 with an extra session. Ten games in a 12-game stretch from Dec. 19 (Morehead State) to Feb. 7 (Jacksonville State) all finished with less than ten points deciding the outcome.

GIVE ME A HAND: TSU needs to hand out a few more assists if trend are any indication. The Tiger are just 2-6 this season when dishing out 13 or fewer assists. On the contrast, the Tigers are 6-2 when they reach 15 or more assists.  Earlier this season, the Tigers dished out 24 balls vs. LeMoyne-Owen, the most since notching 24 against Morehead State in 2005.

NOTHING LIKE HOME: The Tigers now boast a 16-3 record at the Gentry Center during the past two seasons. The Tigers' five-game win streak at home was snapped earlier this season when Middle Tennessee defeated the Tigers, 77-62. The Tigers have since regained momentum winning the next four contests at the friendly confines and finishing with a 4-1 record against non-conference opponents at the Gentry.

THE IRONMAN: WIL POWER: Nashville native and Whites Creek product Wil Peters has been instrumental in the rise of the TSU program the past four seasons. He was recently announced as a candidate for the  prestigious  Bob Cousy Award, which goes to the nation's top collegiate point guard. The stingy guard has inked 93 steals and dished out 326 assists during his lofty career.  Peters has played in 108 games and 2,966 minutes. So far this season, Peters has a team-best 55 assists in 16 games.  During the last five games, he has dished out a team-best 27 assists (5.4 apg). Peters is averaging 8.4 ppg.  Peters is seventh in the OVC, averaging 32 minutes played.

RPI RATINGS REVEALED: The recent RPI ratings released on Monday, Jan. 2 gave TSU  a number of 214, ranking them fourth in the OVC. TSU has faced four opponents with a top-100 RPI: North Carolina 12, Saint Louis  59, Belmont 72 and Middle Tennessee 78. TSU will also play OVC-foe Murray State twice this season, which holds a 16 RPI.

GRABBING THE BOARDS: Tennessee State leads the OVC with a +2.7 rebounding margin. TSU is pulling in 34.4 rebounds off the offensive glass, while grabbing 32.3 on the defensive side. Robert Covington leads TSU with 7.8 rebounds a contest, ranking second in the conference. The Tigers are 7-2 when grabbing 35+ rebounds.

LIMITING THE OPPOSITION: When Tennessee State limits its' opposition to 45 percent or less, the Tigers are a remarkable 8-1. TSU is also 7-1 when they hold opponents to less than 67 points. TSU holds a 4-0 record when opponents bank less than 40 percent of their field goal attempts.

TRIPLE THREAT: The Tigers have plenty of options when it comes to 3-point shooting. The Tigers rank third in the OVC with a 37.4 average (117-of-313). Four players have combined for 300 career made 3-pointers: Wil Peters (110), Robert Covington (106), Kenny Moore (45) and Patrick Miller (39). Peters and Covington are just seven and 11 away, respectively, of reaching the top-10 list at TSU.

REJECTING THE SHOTS: The Tigers are fourth in the OVC with 3.3 blocked shots in 16 games. TSU is 5-1 when notching four or more blocks this season. Leading the way for Robert Covington leads TSU with 18 blocks, followed by Michael Green with 12.

NEWCOMERS MAKING A DIFFERENCE: The trifecta of  TSU newcomers have been very important during the mid-way point of the season for the Tigers. Transfers Jordan Cyphers and Kellen Thornton are averaging 8.8 and 8.1 ppg, respectively.  Meanwhile, redshirt freshman M.J. Rhett has pulled five or more rebounds in six games this season. Rhett is corralling an average of 4.2 rebounds per game, which is second on the team.

CYPHERS STEPPING UP STRONG: Jordan Cyphers has started the past five games and has made an immediate impact for the Tigers. The transfer from Utah is averaging 12.6 points a game during that span. He is 21-of-45 (46.7) from the field and has knocked down 14 three-pointers during that stretch. The Wichita, Kan., native garnered his first OVC honor (Dec. 26), earning Co-Newcomer of the Week. He posted 17.0 ppg and made 55 percent (11-of-20) from the field in victories over LeMoyne-Owen and Alabama A&M.

SETTING THE MARK: Robert Covington and Wil Peters are close to reaching some career marks at Tennessee State. Covington is just 210 points away from reaching TSU's top-20 list for points scored and passing Mike Johnson's mark of 1,251 points set during the 1972-76 seasons. Covington is just 102 rebounds away from reaching 13th on the all-time list. The junior has corralled 557 rebounds in 78 career games played.  Peters is 161 points away from reaching 1,000 points in his career. Peters is seven made triples shy of reaching 10th on the all-time list. He is also 124 assists shy of becoming the all-time assists leader in school history.

BARNETT'S QUEST: Former NBA star and Tennessee State legend Dr. Dick Barnett was on campus in November in hopes of getting support from the university and Nashville community for his quest to have the 1957, 1958 and 1959 NAIA National Champion teams recognized in the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame. Dr. Barnett was a member of three peat National Champions and went on to have an illustrious career in the NBA, most notably with the New York Knicks. A documentary film crew was also on hand, filming Barnett's quest to have the team recognized in the HOF. The crew called Live Star Entertainment recently produced a documentary for HBO called Cornered: A Life Caught in the Ring. 

-- TSU TIGERS --